Jason Navallo

Review of American Dream: Interviews with Industry-Leading Professionals by Jason Navallo

Why I Chose this Book

I was contacted by the author of this book and offered a review copy. I am interested in learning about how successful people gained their success. I accepted the invitation to read the book.

American Dream

            American Dream is a book comprised of interviews with industry leaders about their journeys to success and their opinions about the American Dream. The author, Jason Navallo, is a career advisor and executive recruiter. Other books he has published include Thrive: 30 Inspirational Rags-To-Riches Stories, Success: 30 Interviews with Entrepreneurs and Executives, Never Give Up and Driven To Succeed: How to Start You Career After College. As times change so do industries, job opportunities, outlooks on life and society in general. A recent popular topic, many Americans today feel that there are fewer opportunities than there were for previous generations. This book has interviews from six professionally successful people that one could possibly learn from on how to achieve success in today’s working climate.

Peter Mallouk

            Peter Mallouk is the president and chief investment officer of Creative Planning and wealth management service business. Mallouk first worked in the finance field for several years before deciding to start his own company that would fill a need that he believed was being unfulfilled. He believes in having a balanced work and life style. He also states that you have to enjoy your money while you’re saving it, noting that he once had a client who saved a lot of her money for retirement, but was diagnosed with cancer two years later and was unable to fully enjoy that money. Some other people’s habit of saving is so strong that when it is time for them to spend it they feel uncomfortable doing so. He reads a lot of financial books and believes you should be intentional in your decisions to help you become successful. He seems practical and genial.

“I see more millionaires who are doctors than any other profession because they are always employed, through good times and bad… Becoming a doctor is the clearest path to becoming the multimillionaire next door. Now, if you want to have enormous success, it’s one of the hardest paths because there are constraints on your time. The only doctors who develop enormous wealth are those who become businesspeople. They own hospitals, surgery centers, real estate, and so on.” – Peter Mallouk, American Dream

Ben Caballero

            Ben Caballero is the first and only real estate agent to exceed $1 billion for residential sales and created the website HomesUSA.com. A personal experience with finding an apartment to rent led him to get in the business which eventually led to him launching HomesUSA.com as a way to list homes for builders. He works a lot though he finds time to work out at least three times a week and learn about other subjects such as history and science. He stays current on what’s happening in the industry. To be successful, he believes in chasing your purpose in life and persevering through adversity.

B.J. Armstrong

            Benjamin (B.J.) Armstrong is an ex-NBA player who won three championships in the 90s with the Chicago Bulls. He is now an NBA player agent managing people such as Derrick Rose. Armstrong says he became good at basketball by playing it as much as he could. He would try to find others playing anytime that he was free and believes that training camps and workouts aren’t necessary. To succeed, he believes you have to be both tough and talented. You also should pursue your goals doggedly. Armstrong seems to have a strong personality and I got a motivational speaker vibe from him.

Shelly Sun

            Shelly Sun is the CEO and co-founder of BrightStar Care a provider of services such as homecare and assisting physicians. BrightStar Care has been named a top business by several entities such as Forbes. Sun got her idea for starting a home care service when she couldn’t find satisfactory home care for her husband’s ill grandmother. At the start of her business, Sun often worked 90-120 hours a week though she has since decreased her working hours. Sun attributes success to pursuing something that you’re passionate about, being optimistic, and surrounding yourself with intelligent people that can advise you.

Scott Gerber

            Scott Gerber is a descendant of the original Gerber baby. No. Scott Gerber is the principle and CEO of Gerber Group which owns bars with an emphasis on hotel bars. Gerber started in the bar business after one of his brother’s clients, Ian Schrager, told the sibling real estate brokers that he could teach them the bar business. That’s how it was started. Gerber believes a key component to success in his industry has been their focus on hospitality. He believes in having a work-life balance which even extends to his employees as evidenced by his company offers of free exercise classes and bowling nights. He believes that success entails respecting others and nurturing relationships.

Liz Elting

            Liz Elting is a co-founder of TransPerfect, a provider of translational services and business solutions. She received several awards for her work and has been profiled in several books. Elting started her business after working at a translation company and recognizing that she could run it better. She built her company from scratch working 120 hours a week while sacrificing time with family and friends. She believes a key to success is pursuing something that you are passionate about. She believes you should rely on yourself and advises beginning entrepreneurs not to expect success to happen overnight.


Navallo asks pertinent questions to get a sense of how these six industry leaders achieved their success. There was a mixture of ethnicities and genders. All gave answers in which one could glean useful information. This book provides a good sense of what it takes to reach their level of success.

A few common themes that appeared in the interviews were 1) find a need that was unfulfilled and fill it, 2) focus on one area, especially one that you’re passionate about and pursue it, and 3) you’re definitely going to work hard and long when first establishing a business, but you can relax some down the road. With that being said, the version of the “American Dream” implicit in this book is that of great wealth, especially through entrepreneurship, which is fine. I think it is also important to point out that one’s idea of the “American Dream” could be to have a middle-class lifestyle, a 9-5, a house with a white picket fence, a spouse, 2.4 children and a dog. That version of the dream this book doesn’t directly address, but many lessons could be used for the latter version of the “American Dream” as well.

Something else that is often overlooked when it comes to success is the contribution of external forces for which we have no control. Some people touched on it indirectly by stating that the “American Dream” can be obtained through hard work, perseverance, etc. implying despite one’s circumstances, but I think it would have been interesting to see how each person viewed the influence of their environments or pure luck to their successes. One person, Peter Mallouk, acknowledged that some of his success could be attributed to luck. It was interesting to note that many of these successful entrepreneurs grew up with close relatives, such as a parent, that also owned their owned businesses. My version of the book was a short read, 81 pages total, and lacked a conclusion, but overall it was a good read and informative.

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